YOU want to talk about depression? OKAY….we’ll ‘TALK’…
Recently internet cheerleading YouTuber, Nicole Arbour posted a viral video about depression being ‘all in your head, oh no I’m holding you accountable for your own feelings’. (https://www.facebook.com/NicoleArbourfans/videos/10157110935707907/?hc_ref=ARTnkEL78VXO1IlTJVUrzOeg-in3yo2Tn-1VuFRO3KskJVy_I1qK-Y5s666j_V5GHzU) .
…well, let’s have a look at that shall we?
1) Depression, in common societal reference, is not scaled
Do we say a person is severely depressed while the other is suffering from minor depression? No we don’t, we simply say ‘depressed’ or ‘This person suffers from depression.’ Nor have I seen (in the ten years i’ve been cycling through countless doctors surgeries across the UK) any of the actual developed detailed depression rating scales being used….bar a distinction between ‘am I suicidal or not’ and ‘here is a questionnaire with ten questions which asks if your suicidal, then assesses if giving you pills is okay….’
2) Generalising depression like this is EXTREMELY dangerous
While I understand the general overarching tone of ‘we need to stop treating those with depression with kid gloves so people get up and DO’, depression also needs to be treated with respect. The entire reason for such a large movement on depression is to challenge negative stigma about the condition head on. MANY people still face a lot of discrimination and hardship due to a diagnoses of depression, leaving people as a genuine victim, fighting hard every day and attempting to keep daily struggles a secret from family, friends and work colleges. There is absolutely nothing wrong with promoting and voicing an awareness of someone’s struggles – this doesn’t mean people are aiming for a sympathy vote, or they are ‘giving up’ by pretending to be a hard done by victim as an excuse to not DO – it instead provides a little bit of understanding to the definition of depression in context to an individual’s struggles. (The classic retort here compares psychical disability to the same notion e.g you wouldn’t tell a person with two broken legs they were trying to play victim?)
A much better example in this context would be a fully healthy person being run down with the flu (thus a struggle) which is identified and used by work colleagues, friends and family to gage that person’s current state (run down), following this people can make active necessary adjustments simply from awareness (like handing you a tissue when you need one).
In fact, by being so general we risk forcing those who have gained power and courage to face doctors, work colleagues and friends back underground in silence.
3) Depression fluctuates from day to day
‘Go out, go to a dance class, just keep walking.’
THANK the STARS Nicole left out the very usual cliche of ‘take a warm bath’ here…developing positive habits with food and exercise can indeed be a good step toward facing depression and alleviating its symptoms. BUT (and it’s a big multifaceted but…) Depression can lead to some really nasty physical systems, real pain and real discomfort. Try telling extreme pain in all limbs, hair falling out, spotty, miserable me to ‘keep walking’ your response will simply be ‘jog on’.
It’s the relationship WITH these things that needs to be talked about and the victories gained from them…try telling, ‘curled up in a ball under the table eating baking soda’ me that cake* tastes better and the floor is dirty…you may just get somewhere.
I’m sure you can see the point here, but it’s a huge leap to go from one state to another state, especially if the second state isn’t at all attractive to you (dance classes scare the hell out of me! So does messaging people, certainly positive things when I feel like death!)
Start small, maybe I won’t sit under the table today and try gaming instead. Take THAT as your victory – because it the hell is one!
4) ‘Fixes’ are easy on paper…
It usually takes an average of 8-10 years for a typical person to get the diagnoses of depression. After that, ANY help APART from medication is a considerably long wait in the UK – you are talking 8-10 months for talking therapies at the time of writing in my area…
‘Go inside yourself and figure out what you haven’t processed that’s doing this’ *insert jumbled scribble annotation symbolising confusion and distress… Let’s entirely disregard the fact these are all external factors (friends, work, relationships etc) that are listed contrary to the lovely Harvard pie chart we’re presented with just moments before discounting such things…
DOING this kind of processing is a pretty extraordinary feat, and while it sounds entirely doable on paper – it really isn’t for a lot of people a lot of the time. Even people without any sort of depression still enlist the help of life coaches to sort through said jumbled life mess and make the path of problems clearer. (or talking therapists, whom are a long NHS wait away!)
5) Annoyingly I don’t disagree entirely with the video…
Nicole started out suffering from depression (suicidal) and disability. (Yes, I know right? But here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q4VxGhhwIVs ) Clearly then, the techniques she mentioned have worked for her, some may work for others. The ending message of taking steps every day for your benefit? YES! Absolutely do that! I’m happy Nicole found the right steps to do so that worked for her.
BUT it’s the sheer sweeping generalisation of ‘HERE LOOK I HAVE SOLVED THE DEPRESSION PROBLEM FOR EVERYONE’ attitude she puts across that is dangerous and stupid. No one case is the same, exactly as put in Nicole’s own video when referencing the fact that pills work for some but not others.
To summarize then…
Either Nicole has entirely forgotten the difficult struggles and the monumental mountain she personally had to climb to actively get to the point of following the advice she preaches in her latest video. (See the end of video ‘How I went from Disabled and suicidal to super viral…’ the sheer ring of specialists and battles BEFORE she started finding the ‘sticky notes on fridge’ trick a ‘hit’ to helping her.)
Or Nicole is an absolute marketing genius, deliberately framing the video to spark reaction (1m views, 18k shares at time of writing). In which case I’ll skulk off into my corner of ‘billy no social media followers’…I’ll at LEAST give you some helpful links, resources and make damn sure you know about Samaritans Help Line (available 24 hours) 116 123 (UK/ROI).
Samaritans – Operates a 24 hour service
Childline – Help for children and young people
PAPYRUS – supporting teens and young adults
MIND/Depression Alliance – Wide range of useful links and resources
Your GP – access to NHS services.
*I know that dreaded ‘cake’ word, how dare I fill my body with junk and not grab those tasty exercise chemicals! Honestly I happily stand by what a healthy diet/exercise can do for you, but I also stand by the principle of ‘it’s okay to just sodding eat cake’ sometimes and have that cake make you feel better. Check out Sarah’s blog on Food relationships and you’ll see what I mean.
Read Guest Jay’s battle with Anxiety
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